SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

ABSTRACT

The Upper Ludlow Douro Formation contains the first reported Silurian sponge reefs. These relatively small (5–35 m diameter), mound-shaped structures contain, on average, 35% lithistid demosponges. Reefs are surrounded by irregular haloes of crinoid debris; abundance and diversity of all fossil groups decreases away from the reefs. Each reef is underlain by a lens of crinoid wackestone to grainstone rich in crinoid holdfasts; trepostomate bryozoans, solenoporacean algae and rhynchonellid brachiopods are locally common. The bulk of each reef consists of lime mudstone with abundant lithistid sponges. This is capped by a thin layer of wackestone with abundant tabulate and rugose corals and fewer lithistid sponges, calcareous algae, trepostomate bryozoans and stromatoporoids. This zonation, in which a sponge colonization community was replaced by a coral diversification community, is similar to that reported from some Middle Ordovician, Upper Jurassic and Holocene sponge reefs.

The Douro sponge reefs were relatively low structures, with about 3 m maximum topographic relief. They grew on a broad carbonate platform, probably in warm, tranquil, turbid waters of normal or near-normal marine salinity. Periodic influxes of terrigenous mud adversely affected reef size, and caused biotic changes. Some of the reef lime mud was derived from non-reef sources, but significant quantities were also produced on the reefs. Reefs underwent synsedimentary lithification, bioerosion and minor storm erosion. Fabrics and compositions of sparry calcite in cavities record three generations of meteoric cementation. Originally siliceous spicules of the lithistid sponges were dissolved and the moulds later filled with sparry calcite. Early dissolution of siliceous spicules is common in reef environments, and may have caused fossil sponges to be under-represented in ancient reefs.